*Warning: Spoilers Ahead!*
Sunday, May 19, 2019, marked the end of an eight-year HBO masterpiece and the final culmination of the fate of several characters on the beloved television show Game of Thrones. Several seasons of blood, gore, (lots of) sex, witty banter, and the memes following each episode established the series as one of the most popular on modern television.
Full disclaimer: I didn’t start watching the show until season three and I’m still not sure how I got hooked after being introduced with the “The Red Wedding,” so if I mix anything up from seasons one and two feel free to fight me in the comments!
It’s amazing how creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss were able to make each episode so much like a full-length feature film and still leave viewers on a cliffhanger each week. Every scene kept you hooked in because sometimes things weren’t said explicitly but left to a mass betrayal or secret murder. (My parents always seemed to spot these moments better than I did and I was the one left gasping and screaming at the TV when something big happened.)
Every episode also widened the spread and strengthened character relationships established throughout the series. Even though it was glaringly obvious how much Cersei despised Tyrion for the death of their mother, father, and Joffrey, their constant snapping at one another was still entertaining. Tyrion definitely had more heartfelt relationships with other characters in King’s Landing, like Jaime, Bronn, and beloved Pod. Sibling bickering also manifested itself in the Stark sisters’ moments in the early seasons but turned into a powerful alliance in the more recent seasons as Sansa came into power in the North and Arya perfected her fighting skills.
But character relationships also brought intense heartbreak with the many (and I mean MANY) deaths in the series. Who else’s heart broke when Ser Davos saw Princess Shireen burned at the stake? Or when the Stark sisters watched their father beheaded and their mother watched her son, Robb, brutally murdered by the Freys? But some character deaths brought the most satisfying sense of catharsis for viewers, knowing that their favorites, either dead or alive, got the justice they deserved. Don’t deny that you cheered when Arya pulled a face-switch and killed Walder Frey or when Sansa devilishly fed Ramsey Bolton to his own hounds or when the despicable Joffrey choked on Olenna Tyrell’s poison at the nicknamed “Purple Wedding.”
Season eight was widely debated in terms of its quality this year, with longtime watchers signing a petition to remake the season entirely because of their failed expectations. Although the stunt that Jon pulled by basically abandoning Ghost, and Brienne and Tormund never getting to make their giant children was disappointing, there’s only so many loose ends you can tie up in six episodes.
From the point of view of someone who’s read a lot of books (not the Game of Thrones books, but still, a lot), it doesn’t matter how many people cheered for Daenerys to become the queen or named their babies “Khaleesi;” there’s no way to build up seven seasons of Daenerys slowly growing her power and her army and then taking over the Iron Throne with no major setbacks (i.e., Missandei’s death, two dragons dying, and a descent into madness). That would’ve made for a very boring ending to a very not-boring show. Did the “burn them all” sequence come in a bit sudden? Sure, but where else could you squeeze it in? Had her madness appeared any earlier in the season, someone would’ve killed her then. Her death also allowed other characters to shine, like Sansa Stark fully developing from her innocent “Little Bird” days into Queen of the North.
Honestly, I could write and talk about Game of Thrones for days, but then this would be a 10-page article that no one would read. For now, I’ll have to settle for tagging my GoT fan buddies in Facebook memes and reading New York Times articles on plot theories and probably re-watching the whole series, sans a few episodes that I really can never watch again – I’m looking at you “Red Wedding!”